Across the sea from Italy, the nation of Croatia dominates the coastline and islands of a long stretch of the Adriatic. With its beautiful sea, perfect weather, and a more favorable exchange rate to the Euro, Croatia is beginning to carve out a place for itself among tourism giants in Europe.
As tourism has increased, so have the resources allocated to meet it. In fact, so many Europeans travel to Croatia each summer that Croatia recently rebuilt a freeway from Italy to Dubrovnik complete with technological advancements to its tunnels that allow thousands of cars to drive through each hour.
This increased tourism has also seen an increase in lodging options. Rooms for rent in private houses supplement the plethora of hotels and hostels available in Croatia’s bigger cities and a long established but only recently enforced tourist tax regulates those residences.
The cheapest way to travel to Croatia from the United States is to hop a flight to another European city and get to Croatia by train, ferry or car. Although you can’t get to Croatia with a Eurail pass, an Interail pass will grant you passage all the way south to Dubrovnik.
If you’re not a logistics nut, there are flights from most major U.S. cities to the Croatian international airports in Zagreb and Dubrovnik, and most of the top resorts will pick you up at the airport and plop you down at the resort for free so long as you purchase an expensive enough suite. Some say it takes the fun out of traveling, others say they’re finally able to relax.
If there are two things you have to see on a tour of Croatia, they are the national parks and the islands. The islands define the character of Croatia—or at least the one the tourism bureau wants to present—and the national parks feature some of the most concentrated natural beauty in Europe. Luckily, there are opportunities to kill two birds with one stone; some of Croatia’s national parks are islands.
On the island of Mljet, you can tour the collapsed caves and saltwater lakes and see the internationally famous ancient Roman ruins. Several species of plants, including the Dubrovačka Zečina grow only on the rocky coast of the island.
On the Kornati archipelago, the sheer vertical cliffs called the Kornati “Crowns” serve as a portal back through the geologic history of the region, and were formed by the collision of Africa with Europe on its northern drift. Exploration of these crowns takes place both above and below the water, and although climbing the cliffs is not allowed—don your scuba gear and hold your breath—the crowns can be viewed up close if you’re with a registered diving group affiliated with the national park.
Croatia combines a vast set of outdoor adventure opportunities with pristine waters, beaches and resorts to accommodate almost any vacation itinerary. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing two weeks on the beach, a journey through Croatian culture and history, or even an adrenaline filled vacation full of mountain bike single-track and high-speed paintball, Croatia has the resources and attractions to fulfill your vision.